No Love for Time Travel

Fans of “Sherlock” and “Star Trek” have intersected!  The first trailer for the upcoming Star Trek film “Into Darkness” was just released, and it features Benedict Cumberbatch, the actor that re-introduced us to a snarky, depressive, and seriously addicted Sherlock Holmes (much like Sir Doyle wrote him originally).  Cumberbatch plays the villain.


Rumors are swirling around the interwebs over who that villain is.  And if you watch the trailer and know anything about the original Star Trek movie franchise, it is not hard to guess (I won’t spoil it in text, but if you follow the link, you’ll  see who most everyone – including myself – think it is).star-trek-into-darkness-2

There is much I like about the whole Star Trek franchise.  The original 1966 series was just campy enough (even then) to be enjoyable, and the overall space-western (much like Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” series – and the similarities between the original production and cult following for the two shows is quite interesting) worked well.  I especially enjoyed Star Trek: The Next Generation, as it offered numerous hours of procrastination for me while I was in college.  Of course, I enjoy the even numbered films in the original film franchise, since it has been statistically proven they are better than the odd ones.

I’ll just say it now, and get it over with:  I thought J.J. Abram’s and Paramount’s reboot was pretty lame.  I’ll rephrase that – the time travel ‘twist’ of having an older Spock (played by the always solid Lenard Nimoy) appear half-way through was lame.  Some  argue that in a science fiction movie, with teleporting and force-shields, time travel is not so far fetched. And I agree.  But the problem with time travel is not it’s implausibility: writers use it poorly.  The time traveling Spock is used to try and undo his own past.  And by explaining how he gets there, he also spells out the rest of the movie and how to, literally, save the world.  The ride was over.

The concept of time travel is front & center in “Into Darkness”:  Cumberbatch’s villain says “I have returned to have my vengeance.”  So given the setup, it looks as, once again, JJ Abrams and Paramount won’t write a new story, but are going to rehash an old one, with some twist of bringing back a long lost character from the beyond.  And like I stated above, characters from the future/past get used to all to often to solve improbable plot lines.

I have a rule:  If you have to resort to time travel in your movie that is NOT about time travel itself, you’ve basically failed to write a good, thought out story.  There are great time travel movies, such as “12 Monkeys.”   It avoided the standard “time-travel paradox” and potentially “erasing” the present/future ideas, which if you follow them through logically mean that time travel doesn’t work.  If you can ‘erase’ time (past or present), how can you actually ensure that the past is still there for you to visit?  The whole idea of time travel means that time is constant and the future invariant, or else we would not be able to go back and forth between the two. Once something happens, it happens, and the only thing that changes the future is what you do in the present.  Stepping on a butterfly in the past does not mean Tokyo suddenly gets destroyed 25 years later.

There is an excellent article from Cosmic Variance that essentially sets the canon for good time-travel movies.  Hopefully the writers of the “Into Darkness” perused this while penning the new script.  It’s possible:  Cosmic Variance wrote their article in response to Star Trek reboot.